In Marseille, the Socialist Party saves its unity … without solving all its problems


Benoit Payan, the mayor of Marseille, was expected at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday January 28, according to the program of the 80th congress of the Socialist Party. He finally spoke more than five hours late at the Palais du Pharo, which hosted the debates. The city councilor gave his ex-comrades time – from the PS, he is no longer a member – to settle their internal disputes. And when he appeared, he was greeted by a standing room, “This house, you have just, once again, saved it”he launched, in a thunder of applause.

The 186 delegates of the left-wing movement had just validated, holding out their red badges at arm’s length, the “Pact of collective governance and gathering of socialists”. Only a few refused to vote for this two-page document bitterly negotiated the previous night and morning, after hours of confabulations and backstage discussions between the different currents of the party. “All together, all together, socialists”then intoned elected officials and activists.

The vote makes it possible to get out of a violent crisis which almost put the old party of Jean Jaurès on the ground, in the wake of the disputed election of Olivier Faure as first secretary. This victory, obtained on January 19 with 51.09% of the vote, had been contested by Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol, the mayor of Rouen, who had denounced “frauds” after being narrowly beaten. He then mentioned the threat of a “split”. This is now the confirmed result, even if the text recognizes “irregularities”.

Two “delegated” first secretaries

The boss of the PS will now be “accompanied in the exercise of its missions” by two first secretaries “delegates” : his ally Johanna Rolland, mayor of Nantes, but also Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol. The pact provides, among other things, that the trio is working on a reform of the mode of election within the Socialist Party. They will have to work “collegial way, seeking consensus”. In case of divergence, the decision-making body remains the national office of the party. And these fundamental differences have not disappeared.

The electoral alliance made with rebellious France, EELV and the Communist Party, which led to the constitution of Nupes (New popular ecological and social union), continues to be debated. Olivier Faure negotiated and validated it. For its supporters, the agreement allowed the Socialists to retain 30 deputies in the National Assembly, while the PS had just hit rock bottom in the 2022 presidential election with the meager 1.75% obtained by its candidate, Anne Hidalgo.


One party, three currents

Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol is much less enthusiastic about Nupes. Within the party, he wants to embody a “central force, neither social-liberal nor social-populist”, as said one of his relatives, the senator of Paris David Assouline, at the podium of the congress. In this regard, the pact merely emphasizes the “willingness to pursue, in respect of sensitivities, a strategy of gathering the left and ecology”. This is the strategy precisely followed in Marseille by Bruno Payan with the “Printemps marseillais”.

The third current to present an orientation text to this congress is clearly opposed to Nupes. He is represented by the mayor of Vaulx-en-Velin, Hélène Geoffroy, eliminated in the first round of the federal ballot to appoint the first secretary with 20.34% of the vote.

The relationship to Nupes remains a central issue

During the negotiations in Marseille, she gave up entering the leadership of the PS, thereby weakening the position of Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol against Olivier Faure. On behalf of ” gathering “she still signed the pact giving her the presidency of the National Council, the party’s parliament.

In the process, Hélène Geoffroy asked for the reinstatement of the “suspended comrades”, those who ran against Nupes candidates in the last legislative elections. Before her, one of her supporters, the former MP Patrick Menucci, recalled that the PS’s relationship with rebellious France remains a “central issue”. The man is a representative of an old guard who distrusts the radicalism of the Melenchonists. “It’s up to us to say what will be after Marseille”, he concluded. He too was applauded.

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